Readers, please note that this story describes my experience and immediate feelings about one Steam issue which was resolved shortly thereafter with no harm to me nor any other customers.Â Please note the date this was published and know that I’ve gone on to spend hundreds of dollars as a happy Steam customer.Â Steam isn’t perfect but in my opinion it’s a better alternative to retail stores who are completely inflexible for matters such as returns.
My readers know that it’s been my pleasure to talk about Valve’s electronic games distribution system, Steam, in a positive light this past year or so. They’ve offered me the convenience of purchasing games without leaving my chair, they’ve enabled me to preload games so that I may play them the moment they are released, and they refunded my money when a game refused to work for me. All in all Steam has provided me unmatched service and convenience and I’ve considered them kings among retailers.
Word on the grapevine is that Steam, or possibly a third-party intermediary, has been breached and credit card information is currently in the possession of a malicious individual. I first read about this on Digg, which is more of a sewing circle than a reputable news source, so I took it with a grain of salt. Still, I opened a support ticket with Steam Customer Support to verify:
I read a distressing article today claiming that Steam’s databases were broken into and credit card information was stolen:
Is this true? Do I need to cancel my credit card? Please advise ASAP!
A lot happens in 18 hours. Stories propegate, rumours amplify, and service tickets go unanswered. All of these were the case in this situation. Thus, I followed up on my Steam support ticket:
Do I really need to tell you that this urgent question is time-sensitive?
As you can see this issue, rumour or otherwise, is public knowledge and widespread. Valve’s lack of a statement on this is very conspicuous. Please confirm or deny this story so that I can rest at ease.
I then scoured Valve’s user forums for some clue of what was happening. I found a single post on the subject and succintly expressed my displeasure with Steam’s lack of disclosure.
The next morning, having received many replies to my comment on the Slashdot story, I was reminded to check in on my ticket status. I was very, VERY disappointed with what I saw:
Steam had the audacity, the bat-shit insanity, to consider my support issue resolved without having contacted me at all!!
Furious, I sought to express my concerns on the Steam forum post I’d contributed to the preceding evening. I included a link to the above screenshot.
Less than a couple of minutes later my post was gone. Gone.
I posted again, making my incredulity of this Nazi-esque whitewashing (though I phrased it much more gently), and again my post was deleted, but not before someone replied, disqualifying his words from the flow of the conversation. I hit the back button and clicked Submit to repost my message. I then sought to retort the harsh criticism of the individual who challenged my arguments, and was cheerfully greeted with this message:
I’d been banned for a week.
I completed my undergraduate college program in network administration with a supplementary specialization in security. The hot topic during my Intro to Network Security class was the theft of the greater portion of the source code for Valve’s half-a-decade-in-the-making Half Life 2. A cracker somehow installed a remote desktop trojan on a Valve employee’s work PC which granted him unchecked access to the company’s file servers. The individual helped himself to several games and a big chunk of the Source Engine’s code tree. By the time Valve become aware it was too late. The damage was done and Valve spent the next year delaying the release to rewrite the code.
On another occasion someone posted several messages on the official Valve website as founder Gabe Newell, having guessed his password, “GabeN”.
Imagine the leap of faith I took when I finally bought Half Life 2, and went on to purchase many games over Steam. I’d trusted Valve to have learned from their mistakes. What an idiot I was. Those who ignore history…
As of now the only “official” word I’ve heard on this topic is an appended update to a third-party news story insisting that, despite the infiltrator’s own declarations, not Steam but a third-party partner had been breached. I am forced to weigh this announcement against all the neglect and whitewashing I’ve experienced first hand. My instincts tell me Steam has much to hide, and is desperate enough to do so at the cost of their already shoddy reputation. I’ve described all the variables in this equation in this blog article so I see no other logical explanation.
In summation, Steam is unethical, cowardly, and does not care one tiny iota about my safety, wellbeing, peace of mind, or patronage. Thus I will offer them none of these things again. I will reluctantly purchase any Half Life products they release, because I love that series, but I will do so in brick-and-mortar stores and probably assign them to a dummy Steam account.
The PC games industry looked to Valve as a beacon; a fearless icebreaker forging a path through frozen, inhospitable, foreign waters, and they were making real progress. At the first sign of danger Valve put its tail between its legs, rolled up in a little ass ball, and meekly batted away all questions with its little paws. Not much of a role model in my books.
Yet another strike against this troubled publisher and developer. What’s the count, ump?
Narcissist that I am, Steam’s public face is of no interest to me. All I know is that I’m done with them. If Valve is so inept as to drop the ball while dealing with supposedly false accusations, how on earth can I trust them should a real calamity ensue?
— UPDATE —
Steam has closed my support ticket yet again without contacting me, and again considered the matter “Resolved”.ï¿½ I’ve just emailed Gabe Newell in a calm and factual fashion in the hopes of helping him empathise with his customers.ï¿½ If you are a Steam customer and this matter is of concern to you I advise you to do the same.
Email Gabe Newell here.